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Two Excerpts from
"The Blood of Martyrs."
Tertullian. Citizens of Rome. You ask, “why can we not bring ourselves to pray for the safety of the emperor? For the safety of the state?
Prudens. (Not exactly overwhelmed, he sarcastically understates his skepticism) Yes. Those questions have crossed our minds.
Tertullian. You ask, “Why do we do choose to die?”
Prudens. Some do, I suppose. Others - like me - don’t care.
Tertullian. Our answer is simple.
Prudens. Simple is good. Brevity is next to godliness - assuming that there is a God - to be next to.
Tertullian. A martyr’s death is a second baptism which secures the remission of all offenses against God.
Prudens. That would suggest that a Christian’s first baptism was somewhat less than wholly efficacious. Or is this a case of the best two out of three?
Tertullian. It is a passport to eternal happiness with God, our father.
Prudens. Again, assuming, of course, that there is an eternity. And a God.
Tertullian. For this we sing hymns of joy. We express thanks on the very spot for your sentences.
Prudens. For me, your singing was more offensive than your refusal to offer sacrifice. This god of yours must be tone deaf.
Tertullian. When we are condemned by you, we are acquitted by our God in heaven.
Prudens. Another assumption! How extravagant your are! You also assume that there is a heaven!
Tertullian. If you pay close attention, you will come to know that the oftener we are mown down by you, the more our number grow.
Prudens. Yes. There will always a stock of be fools who find it nobler to die than to live.
Tertullian. The blood of Christian martyrs is seed.
Father. (Having listened to the other two) What sort of father requires his son to die as an expiation for the sins of others? What sort of “god” takes delight in the suffering and death young women? Of any of his followers?
Tertullian. The God of the Christians.
Prudens. The bloodthirsty God of the Christians.
Father. Today is March 7, 203. Septimus Severus is our Emperor. Today, there is great rejoicing tonight among the Christian community here in Carthage -- because my daughter is dead!
Tertullian. The witness of her death will cause many to follow our savior’s way.
Prudens. A month from now, only their families will remember them. For the rest of Carthage - indeed, for the rest of the world -- it will be as if they never existed.
Tertullian. Her fellow Christians venerate her as a martyr.
Prudens. Then her fellow Christians are fools.
Father. My daughter is dead because when she joined their “Way,” she lost her capacity for toleration of the religious beliefs of others.
Prudens. Yes, she became a bigot.
Father. She could not bring herself offer even a minute trace of incense for safety of our Emperor .
Tertullian. She died firm in her faith.
Prudens. If one can be firm in a fog.
Father. You know you are being watched.
Perpetua. Of course.
Father. If you know, why do you not understand?
Perpetua. Father, I fully understand.
Father. Why then are you oblivious to the danger. Your offense is capital.
Perpetua. I know that, too.
Father. Then why do you not extricate yourself from the obvious danger?
Perpetua. Our Lord also faced the same danger. He welcomed his martyrdom. I welcome it, too.
Father. And your Jesus died. I did not raise you, I did not educate you, to watch throw your life away.
Perpetua. But you raised me to think for myself. To love what is good. To choose what is right, and to eschew evil.
Father. My dear, I think for myself. I strive to make the right choices everyday. One does not need to be a Christian to be inclined to -- to love what is good.
Perpetua. For me, the Lord is the only good worth choosing.
Father. Then believe in your Lord, live your faith, but do not publicly proclaim yourself a Christian.
Perpetua. If I deny him, why should he not deny me?
Father. I do not understand a God who revels in the deaths of those who profess his name.
Perpetua. That is because you do not know him as I do.
Father. Then, believe in him. Love him. Follow his way. If he is good - as you profess - he cannot expect you to make a human sacrifice of yourself for his name. Didn’t the Jew- Isaiah - say that “God does not want holocausts?”
Perpetua. But that is precisely what he asked of his own son, our Lord.
Father. But you have said that he asked that as an expiation for sin. If your Christ’s sacrifice was efficacious, will not your sacrifice be superfluous?
Perpetua. Father, do you see that pitcher - that water pitcher - on that table?
Father. Do not seek to change the subject.
Perpetua. I do not change the subject. That pitcher remains a pitcher, regardless of what you choose to call it.
Father. That is true. So then you may be a Christian even if you style yourself otherwise.
Perpetua. I cannot at once both lie, and seek the truth.
Father. Unless you lie, you will not be allowed to seek the truth. You will die.
“THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS”
In the year 203 A. D., Septimus Severus was emperor of Rome. In March of that year, two Christian women, Perpetua and Felictus [Felicity] incurred death for refusing to offer incense for the welfare of the emperor in the North African city of Carthage.
The great early Christian writer Tertullian is believed to have taken Perpetua’s diary of her imprisonment, and completed the vivid account of her martyrdom.
The author has embellished that quintessential Christian testament of faith to incorporate the dissenting views and opinions of two non-Christian witnesses: those of her father, a pagan, and those of her jailer, Prudens, an agnostic.
What results is a clash of ideas - a clash over the value of martyrdom.
“THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS”
CAST OF CHARACTERS (3W & 8M)
Tertullian A Christian writer and apologist who is thought
to have recorded the account of the Martyrdom
of Perpetua and Felicity
Prudens A jailer and an agnostic
Father Perpetua’s grieving father. A pagan
Perpetua A recent Christian convert. An estranged wife,
and a mother with a suckling child.
Tertius A Christian Deacon from Carthage
Pomponius Another Deacon from Carthage
Mother Perpetua’s supportive mother
Brother Perpetua’s Christian brother
Saturus A Christian priest and Perpetua’s spiritual
Hilarian The procurator. Perpetua’s judge
Felictus Perpetua’s servant and fellow Christian
Don’s Other Plays
Free previews of all of Don’s plays are available at his web site: http://www.osheasplays.com/
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Big Dog Plays http://www.bigdogplays.com/
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Norman Maine Plays http://www.normanmaineplays.com/
Drama Source http://www.dramasource.com/
Contemporary Drama Service https://www.contemporarydrama.com
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